EC: Serbia lagging behind in key reforms

Generally, Serbia has made certain progress on legislative and institutional reforms, including on the issues of national minorities, asylum and the fight against money laundering – the European Commission said in its latest report.

The report also points to delays in delivering tangible results in areas such as judicial reform – including war crimes – freedom of the media and the fight against corruption.

The EC presented its so-called non-paper, an internal document related to challenges to Serbia’s challenges regarding the accession negotiation chapters 23 and 24 on the rule of law in the country.

“Threats, intimidation and violence against journalists are still troubling, and the general environment is still not appropriate and does not contribute to the exercise of the freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” the report said.

It is also alleged that “hate speech and discriminatory terminology” are often tolerated in the media and that regulatory bodies or prosecutors rarely deal with them.

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“Concerning chapter 23, the process of constitutional reform in order to strengthen the independence and accountability of the judiciary is still ongoing,” the report says.

The EC’s non-paper goes on to say that It is alleged that the Venice Commission assessed that the Draft Amendments to the Constitution from October 2018 are in accordance with its recommendations and opinions given in June 2018. The European Commission states that it recognizes Serbia’s intentions and is encouraged to continue consulting the Venice Commission on this issue.

“The Commission will closely monitor this process to ensure that the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution’s autonomy are guaranteed by law and in practice,” the EC document states.

As the concrete results in the field of efficiency of justice in Serbia, the Commission lists the reduction of the number of unresolved cases in the courts and the measures taken to prepare for the introduction of a comprehensive system based on IT management of court cases.

“In regard to war crimes prosecution, the prosecution’s strategy has been adopted, and certain procedural measures and institutional improvements have been implemented. At the same time, Serbia has yet to show evidence of indictments based on its own investigations and final verdicts,” the report says.

In the part related to the fight against corruption, the EC document says that Serbia has made “organizational steps” following the Law on Jurisdiction of State Authorities entering into force in March 2018.

The report adds that Serbian legislation revision is lagging behind when it comes to the activities of the Anti-Corruption Agency and the financing of political activities.

“There is a lack of effective coordination and monitoring of Serbia’s anti-corruption policy as well as the constructive engagement of the relevant stakeholders,” the European Commission said.

The trend of the growing number of Roma pupils, as well as the adoption of the Law on Protection of Personal Data and Free Legal Aid, have been positively evaluated. At the same time, it was noticed that the laws on ombudsman, gender equality, anti-discrimination and juvenile offenders are lagging behind.

The Commission calls on Serbia to review its action plans “realistically and qualitatively”, and to engage in an inclusive and constructive dialogue with all the parties concerned and civil society in this process.

(Voice of America, 15.11.2018)





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